A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a voluntary process whereby family members and friends within the family network plan and make decisions for a child or young person who is at risk – usually with their involvement. FGCs can be used in any situation where a decision or plan needs to be made about a vulnerable child or young person. In the UK, they are mostly used in child protection and safeguarding circumstances, particularly where children are at risk of entering care, but they can also be used to respond to anti-social behaviour, youth offending and school exclusions.
Family Group Conferences were first introduced in Leeds on a very small scale in the early 2000s, and expanded city-wide in 2010. When Leeds began on its improvement journey, with restorative practice at its core, the city committed to expanding its FGC offer, which continued under the Family Valued innovation programme, funded by the Department for Education; external evaluators noted that the expansion was ‘to a scale not previously seen in the UK’. At the same time, Leeds was able to offer FGCs in innovative ways, with their use in domestic abuse cases and as an alternative to an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC).
Initial referral criteria for the service was focused on prevention of children entering care, but as the service has expanded, Leeds has been able to move the offer earlier in the life of the problem. The offer of an FGC is now an entitlement for families in Leeds, and there is an expectation that families will have been given the opportunity to come together and make decisions and plans for their children before the state has to intervene. The expansion of and commitment to FGCs in Leeds is one of the most tangible examples of how we have been able to put restorative approaches into practice, working with families to help them understand practitioners’ concerns and develop their own plans to keep children and young people safe.
For more information about the use of FGCs in Leeds, please contact [email protected].
d december 2023